When we put the words “fast” and “food’ together, what immediately comes to mind are quick-ser vice restaurant giants like McDonald’s , Burger King  and Wendy’s . But are they the only ones that require foods to be produced fast?
Not at all. In fact, the need for speed from operators in all industry segments continues to drive manufacturers to update and improve what they already have on the market and develop products that are even faster than their predecessors.
Almost every market segment could take advantage of high-speed cooking technologies. The biggest advantages of high-speed cooking technologies are that the food has been cooked at the moment, so it exudes a great aroma, has a terrific taste profile and is visually appealing. In addition, such technologies help the operator maintain a better food-cost percentage because the food is cooked only on an as-needed basis.
So where can high-speed cooking equipment provide a distinct advantage for the operator?
In noncommercial corporate-dining venues, where the dining guest may have even considered skipping lunch to tackle the desk laden with projects that need to go out today, the guest’s expectation is that he’ll get his meal in seconds, not minutes.
In locales where there are restaurants clustered in a central business hub and where the lunch crowd is not going to withstand a lengthy wait because the kitchen doesn’t have the power to meet the output demand. No matter how good the food is, they’ll go elsewhere if it isn’t served fast.
In restaurants located near theaters, sports arenas and other event venues, where 200 people are about to converge on your operation at 5:30 p.m. and they all need to eat and be out within two hours.
In the country clubs where, no matter how much you implore members to stick to their reservations, they all wind up coming in together, ordering their food together and expecting a superlative taste experience delivered almost at the same time, after which they all want to leave together.
In any operation where the mission imperative is to maintain reasonable and consistent wait times for food to be delivered to the table.
Which appliances would the high-speed equipment replace?
The fact is that in most cases the high-speed units don’t replace any of your existing equipment. Instead, they’re used to augment your existing cooking battery, unless they’re being used for a product-specific purpose, such as making pizza or hot sandwiches. It’s the same as adding a panini grill or a convection oven to the cold station; as you spread the menu offerings across more appliances that can be working simultaneously, the output can increase in speed and volume.
In some cases, high-speed equipment can help save labor costs, because the alternative to increasing speed and output is to put another pair of hands on the cooking line, but considering the high cost of labor and its impact on the bottom line, tools that can bring about a good return are really a no-brainer. Also, the equipment doesn’t call in sick, ask for days off or ask for more money.
In terms of what types of high-speed equipment are available, impinger ovens and clamshell-type griddles are the workhorses of quick-service pizza and burger chains, but for the rest of the industry, the most obvious appliance of choice is the whole family of high-speed ovens. Such ovens employ combination heating from convection hot air with microwaves, microwave and impingement—convection heating that is forced through perforated walls of the oven. They also may employ microwaves with light waves.
More than 600 exhibitors are believed to be working The NAFEM Show this week at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. Several will be displaying or demonstrating high-speed cooking gear.
If you’re at the show or can still make it there, why not hit the exhibit floor to learn how you can put the cooking pedal to the metal?